18 November 2018Last updated


Wake up and smell the oud

Catherine Harper wonders if we need to stop complaining and take a fresh look at our fair city...

7 Dec 2014 | 05:04 pm

It’s visitor season again, meaning endless airport runs, guest room make-ups, private taxi services, and tour guide duty. Plus, of course, the company of friends and family and, if we’re lucky, a few deliveries from home. But are we missing one key thing that visitor season offers? No, not a great excuse to use as many two-for-one vouchers as we can rip out of the book; having somebody in town for whom Dubai is new, exciting and different can – and should – give us a kick up the proverbial to look around and really see what we’ve got. We’re all about gratitude in the magazine this month, and perhaps we ought to extend a little of this gratitude to the city that so generously hosts so many of us as expats.

Let’s face it, we’re probably all guilty of being a bit blasé about Dubai. Tallest building? Yep, can see it from the garden sofa. First man-made palm-shaped island? Go there regularly for brunch. Stunning marinas, beautiful beaches, breathtaking skylines? Wrote home about them 14 years ago; they’re old news now.

Many of us have even got into the habit of having a good old moan at every opportunity (as is evident on any given day on social media). You can’t get a table at the new hot favourite restaurant? Yell at the booking assistant and refuse to visit the hotel. Ever again. Your local curry delivery service forgot a dish? Blast them on Facebook to make sure nobody else uses them. Ever again. The Metro was too crowded? Throw a strop and refuse to use anything other than your standard-issue expat Pajero. Ever again. (Disclaimer: I own a Pajero).

Do we take this place for granted?

I think we do. We’re so used to superlatives – biggest, best, tallest, shiniest – we’re almost numb to the real wonders of Dubai, and it takes a fresh pair of eyes to help us see this. My mother-in-law was the one who made me wake up when we took her for dinner at the Madinat earlier in the year. Meandering along the waterways on the way to the restaurant, her face was full of wonder; she was, quite understandably, blown away by the scenery.

So why wasn’t I? It is a stunning place and totally worthy of wonder. I felt like a spoilt brat with too many toys to appreciate them. This continued when I took a friend to Burj Khalifa. Yes, I see it every day from my garden, but I don’t really ‘see’ it. I don’t see the vision that went into it, the determination to succeed, the sheer wonder that it’s standing at all – it took showing it to a visitor to point that out.

I’m not alone. A quick poll of the office reveals many of us feel the same way; we’re surrounded by luxurious venues, internationally renowned brands, the best of everything, and after a while it simply becomes the norm.

So, as we reflect at the end of the year, let’s take a few moments to appreciate what we really have in Dubai.

The weather’s fabulous for eight months of the year, it’s one of the safest places we could be living, and many of us have had opportunities here we might not have had elsewhere. Any day of the week we can ski, sunbathe, shop and then have dinner at one of the finest restaurants in the world. We can make friends from every corner of the planet. And, of course, we have the world’s tallest building.

So go out with your visitors and show them Dubai. Take pride in our city. Stop taking it for granted, and start appreciating what we have. That’s my resolution for the New Year, anyway.


By Catherine Harper